A Good Read

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I can read three pages of a book and predict whether or not I’ll be unable to put it down. I really didn’t have time to start the book yesterday because we’ve got out-of-town company coming today and the General left me a to-do list. Actually, I am misrepresenting the assignment I was given. She left me a grocery list for Thanksgiving, but I’m not picking that up until Monday or Tuesday. The to-do-list was self-imposed.

 

Sometimes the pressure of out-of-town company coming serves as motivation to do what you should have already done. The General has been out of town most of the week. Her mother had cataract surgery and Treva went to ensure the doctor knew what he was doing. Okay, I’m making that part up, but trust me, I’m not too far off center.

 

“Not being too far off center” brings another thought to mind. Yesterday in a board meeting, a young man who is a resident in one of our residential programs shared his story. As it so happens, I have close ties to his step-paternal grandmother. He mentioned in passing that he sometimes calls me Uncle Donnie. The executive director of the program where the young man is in care subsequently suggested that folks hang on to the handle I’d been given and start calling me Uncle Donnie. The board chair responded: “I think Crazy Uncle Donnie is better.”

 

The board chair is the guy who gave me the book that I’m going to have a difficult time putting down. It is entitled: “Sandy Koufax A Lefty’s Legacy” by Jane Leavy. Several weeks ago, I mentioned Sandy Koufax in one of my blogs. It was entitled: “Pitcher Perfect”. Sandy shocked the nation when he walked away from the game at the age of thirty because of medical issues that potentially would impair his game. When he determined his perfection was on the threshold of waning, he opted out. If he couldn’t be at his best, he’d prefer to do something else.

 

At any rate, following my posting of “Pitcher Perfect”, the board chair who self-reportedly frequently reads my blog, asked if I had read Sandy Koufax’s biography? I had not, so he said he’d like to get it for me. What a thoughtful act of kindness. True to his word, he gave me the book yesterday. Of course with the book came a word of warning. He said, “You’ll never know how many times I was reading this book in a courtroom and wanted to tell the judge he’d have to wait because I was reading my book”.

 

Normally, I shy away from anything that looks like baseball, but in doing research on Sandy Koufax for my blog, I came to have a real appreciation for his story. I liked his values, his humility, and his respectful and pleasant personality. He wasn’t all about himself.

 

Perhaps one of the most profound stories related to Koufax’s values was his decision to sit-out playing Game One in the Word Series in 1965. He opted not to play because it was the Sabbath and he is Jewish. Apparently, Don Drysdale, the pitcher who took the pitcher’s mound in his absence, didn’t fare that well because the coach pulled him. As he was being replaced, he commented to the coach: “I bet you wish I was Jewish now”.

 

A couple of years after retiring from baseball with a multiple of awards and a stellar track record, he met the young woman who six months later became his wife. At the time she was redecorating her parent’s Malibu beach house. He offered to help her paint. He mentioned nothing to her about baseball. It was several days later that she learned his identity.

 

Koufax lived with a sense of humility uncharacteristic of many athletes made famous by skill and accomplishment. Five years following his retirement, he opted to move to what one author described as “the back booth of America”. He moved to a rural setting near a small town in Maine where he could blend in with the locals and live anonymously.

 

Apparently, he was a creature of habit. Almost every morning at 6:00 a.m., he made his way to breakfast at Dick’s Diner in Ellsworth, Maine. The diner was located about fourteen miles from his home. Though he was always polite and friendly to patrons, he preferred the privacy of sitting in a booth, the one farthest from the entrance.

 

The article I read expressed it this way: “He came so often that the family who owned the diner stopped thinking of him as Sandy Koufax, one of the greatest pitchers who ever lived. They thought of him the way Koufax strived all his life to be thought of, as something better even than a famous athlete: He was a regular”.

 

Because I had self-imposed chores to do last night, I limited myself to simply reading the preface to the book. Did I mention that I don’t routinely read the preface to a book? I read this one and I’m already hooked. The author’s ability to throw a curve ball on her own draws you in and makes it an easy and interesting read. Koufax hadn’t asked that his story be written. It was the author’s idea and she was intent on accomplishing her objective. It took her four months to find his contact information. Then she had to sell him on her intent.

 

She says of herself: “The first call I made, when I began reporting, was to the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, looking for old ballplayers who had a key at-bat, a good swing, a good story to tell. I was connected to Dan Foster, who considered my request, and then said: “Here’s what I want you to do. Write a letter to each of these individuals. Place his name in the center of a white envelope. Place your return address in the upper left-hand corner and a stamp in the upper right-hand corner. We will fill in their address. That way, if they choose to respond they can.”

 

I can hardly wait to get back to the book. It is destined to be a good read.

 

All My Best!

Don

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A Shoulder To Lean On – Well Almost

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Do you ever let things over which you have no control throw a kink in your peace of mind and fill you with a sense of anxiety and dread? I had only been stopped in traffic for ten minutes, but I could feel my anxiety rising with a sense of dread. I’d rather miss an event all together than to show up late. I know it’s weird, but I can’t help myself.

 

Last week when I was at the child-care administrator’s conference in Fort Worth, I was amazed at the number of people that walked into a training session halfway through the presentation. Of course, they stayed and got the confirmation number to document their attendance and will, no doubt, get full credit for having been in attendance.   I know what you’re thinking. You are wondering why I care? Truthfully, that is a good question and I don’t know the answer. It just gets my goat and I’m not an animal person, so you’d think I could let it go.

 

Actually, last night I was on my way to a work related function in Houston. It was billed as a “feel good event” to honor our donors, but after sitting totally stopped in traffic for ten minutes less than half a block from my hotel, I was in a panic. I certainly wasn’t feeling good and besides that, at the pace I was traveling, I probably was going to arrive late. Like I said, I’d rather be a “no show” than a late show.

 

According to the GPS, the eleven-mile commute to the event was only supposed to require twenty minutes out of my day. Already, I had spent half of the allotted time and could sense the stress that building. Of course, at the time, it was still only 5:55 p.m. The event didn’t start until 6:30. I had started to the event very early and I still had plenty of time, or so I thought.

 

Thirty-five minutes later, it’s a good thing no one could read my thoughts because they weren’t positive. I wanted to shout driving instructions to drivers.  My car had traveled only a small distance since the beginning of my travel. Sure as shootin’, I was going to be late, probably very late. I was also surprised that there was no shootin’. Drivers were being less than courteous. After all, every driver on the road had a destination in mind and everyone behind the wheel was already late.

 

At least I now understood the problem. The traffic lights at the intersection of Hwy 6 and the access road on both sides of IH-10 were not functioning. It was rush hour traffic, but no one was rushing; most everyone was stopped. No one was directing traffic. Did I mention no one was directing traffic? No wonder I had spent 45 minutes waiting to get through an intersection half a mile from my hotel. It was proving to be a not so good day.

 

I texted someone at the event and expressed my regrets regarding the probability of being very late. Honestly, as I watched the expressions on people’s faces, I was a little concerned that I might hear the sound of gunshots. People were not driving friendly and there was absolutely no coordination related to which vehicle was next in line to cross the intersection.  There were four lanes of traffic on the access road on each side of  IH-10. The same was true for Hwy 6. When I finally got through the quagmire of vehicles, I breathed a major sigh of relief. The traffic was finally beginning to move. Maybe I had a snowball’s chance of not being as late as I feared.

 

I arrived about the same time that a number of other people were arriving. I noticed that several men were wearing suits or a sport’s jacket. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was not going to not look like a fish out of water.  I  had dressed appropriately for the evening.

 

As I walked into the home where the event was taking place, I greeted one of our board members and her husband. The husband had his arm in a sling. I inquired about the injury thinking surely he hadn’t been playing touch football. He wasn’t old, but he wasn’t young enough to be playing football. I thought maybe he had fallen on his shoulder. I am often surprised by the number of younger-older guys that still play sports. When I asked about his shoulder, his wife suggested that I might find his story worthy of one of my blogs. As it turned out, it was.

 

The injury had nothing to do with football. It was related to a hunting accident. He had been elk hunting in Montana. The thing that was most surprising is that the accident occurred fifteen years ago this past October. He said he carelessly failed to ensure that the cinch strap on his horse’s saddle was snug after they stopped for lunch. As he remounted to cross a stream, the horse’s first step was about two and one half feet deep into the water. As the horse’s body twisted, the saddle rolled the wrong direction. Apparently so did he.

 

Quick as a flash, both the saddle and rider were now postured under the belly of the horse. He didn’t say that he was holding on for dear life, but he said he held on to the mane of the horse. I am assuming he was holding on for dear life. There had to be some level of pride that would be forfeited if he totally fell off his horse. What self-respecting cowboy could let something like that happen?  After all, that story would make it back to Texas before the hunting trip was completed.

 

You noticed, I made no mention of the importance of staying upright on horseback. By the time the horse negotiated getting across the stream, the horseman/elk hunter was in no shape to hold his rifle against his right shoulder. Every muscle or ligament that could be torn in his shoulder had been stressed to the limit. I didn’t asked, but I bet he didn’t have any Arsorbine Jr. with him. Real cowboys don’t carry stuff like that in their bedrolls.

 

Fast-forward fifteen years and it was time for a new shoulder and joint replacement. The on-going pain associated to worn out joints and arthritis had caught up with him. Isn’t it amazing what can be orchestrated through medical technology? It is also an indication  that delayed maintenance can be a complicated and painful process.

 

At the end of the evening, I said to him: “It has been an evening of extremes. You told me about your horseback hunting trip to Montana and we ending the evening listening to 17th Century music played on a harpsichordist and a “chittarist”. Both instruments were reflective of the instruments available at the time the score was written.

 

I guess it was an evening of extremes: Cowboys stories and an evening at the Opera. All I know is that it was an incredible event. Folks had an enjoyable evening and I’m glad I went even if I did arrive five minutes late.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

You’ve Got Mail

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My mother raised me better, but I was oblivious to the omission I had made until recently. To make matters worse, I could have/should have apologized for not responding to their correspondence a year ago. Both my cousin and his wife were at the family reunion last year. Unfortunately, I had no idea that I had erred in social graces. Fortunately, they were present again this year.

 

It was awkward, but why not own it? I saw them when they arrived at the family reunion on Saturday. Consequently, I made a beeline in their direction. Almost before they were fully out of their vehicle, I was apologizing for not responding to the correspondence they sent to me dated March 17, 2015. The General recently had looked in the mailbox at our street address and discovered the unclaimed letter in our mailbox.

 

My cousin’s wife had written to thank me for mailing them a copy of “More Than Enough” and to express congratulations for the successful publication of my two books. The envelope was postmarked 17 March 2015.  Who knows how long the envelope containing the correspondence has been in our mailbox? It was stamped in red with the notation:

 

“NOT DELIVERABLE

AS ADDRESSED

UNABLE TO FORWARD”.

 

I remember “why”, but I don’t remember “when”. The General and I changed our mailing address from our street address to a Dripping Springs post office box two-to-three years ago. In fact, it may have been as long ago as four years. We did that because several older adolescents/young men were reportedly having a heyday with mail being delivered to the mailboxes at people’s street addresses. Allegedly, discarded mail stolen from people’s personal mailboxes had been strewn up and down the highway and scattered across the roadways in various locations. In addition, a number of people reportedly became the victims of identity theft as credit card numbers pilfered from mail taken were used without the consent or authorization of the cardholder.

 

As I recall, the General and I missed receiving a credit card statement one month. Out of concern that our credit-card statement might have been stolen, we immediately closed the account and subsequently discontinued use of our street mailing address. It was uncharted territory for us. We had never had a post office box in Dripping Springs before.

 

At the time we made the switch, personnel at the post office indicated it was all or nothing. We couldn’t have both a post office box and a street mailing address. Consequently, all of our mail had to be delivered to the post office box if any of our mail was delivered at that location. We couldn’t pick and choose what mail was sorted for which address. Consequently, the address 550 Loop 165, Dripping Springs, TX 78620 no longer existed as far as the post office was concerned.

 

I don’t remember exactly how I fumbled out my apology for not responding to their kind note a year a half earlier, but from the look on my cousin’s wife’s face it was absolutely a non-issue. She smiled and said, “I’ve got a better story than that”.

 

“You have what?” I asked.  She responded: “At home I have a one-cent post card that my grandmother mailed to my grandfather before they were married. He never received the card that my grandmother mailed him”.

 

Pausing for me to fully process what she had shared, she went on to say: “My grandmother died when she was still young. She died giving birth to their fourth child. Later my grandfather remarried and both he and his second wife were deceased before the one-cent post card eventually was delivered at the intended address. The family home was still in the family and the surname was still the same. The post card arrived eighty-years from the date when it was mailed”.

 

What an absolutely, incredible story! I told her I needed the story and a picture of the post card for my blog. She responded that a family member had written a story related to the card’s history. In fact, the family member had shared the story and the post card with a reporter for the town’s paper. The reporter was captivated by the story as well. He promised to publish the story. Two days later, the family member noticed the reporter’s obituary in the town’s newspaper. Consequently, the story was never published and it took some finesse on the family member’s part to have the postcard returned to her possession. It is now a keepsake that my cousin’s wife treasures.

 

I was sharing that story with my daughter and son-in-law and they said to me in unison. “Did you hear about the story of Scott in Scotland and the letter he received through the mail?” I had not, but it too, is an interesting story. They heard about the letter and how it was addressed on a public radio talk show.

 

Truthfully, the letter carrier in Scotland had to know those on his mail route well to figure out the riddle or the puzzle related to finding the correct recipient of the correspondence. The letter included only a first name. The following notations were included on the envelope: “Scott, from Scotland … aged about 60/70?? … corner of Tiniroto Road (almost). By a bridge. Has a Japanese wife — who may be older but looks about 20 … also has a daughter, about 3. Loves history … Good sense of humour … tells a good tale … Rural delivery area, sort of south east of Gisborne.”

 

Scott O’Brien, the person to whom the letter was addressed was surprised the letter made its way to the intended recipient. Scott previously had engaged in conversation with a man delivering phone books. Actually, it was by happenstance that they met at all. Scott heard his dog barking and went outside to see what was going on. I guess you could say, “They hit it off.” The two men talked for about an hour and a half. You are probably thinking the same thing I was thinking. “Was the man delivering phone books being paid by the hour?”

 

George MacLachlan, the deliverer of the phone book, had the social graces to write Scott O’Brien to thank him for his time and conversation. In addition, he mentioned that he hopes to visit with him again next year.

 

At our family reunion on Saturday, a cousin said: “I always read two or three lines of your blog.”  Noticing my inquisitive (was it a smile or was it a smirk – I don’t remember) at any rate, if that cousin stops before completing the first paragraph of today’s blog, he’s missed two interesting stories. Neither originated with me, I simply had the opportunity to write them down.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT IS A SMALL WORLD

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How many times have you heard the expression: “It’s a small world?” Honestly, I sometimes shake my head wondering if it’s really true? Some think that (1) people who know (2) people who know (3) people who know (4) people who know (5) people who know (6) people all know the same people. I guess that is a long way to express the concept of six degrees of separation. Perhaps more simply stated: “It is the theory that everyone is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world. Is it really possible that a chain of “a friend of a friend” could potential represent some kind of connection in a maximum of six steps?

 

Yesterday morning I was very excited to discover that I had located a picture of someone on Facebook that I thought could pass for the identical twin of a friend of mine. Seriously, could it be true that anyone could look that much like someone else? Periodically, someone will say to me: “I saw a guy who could pass for your twin”. The people who’ve shared that with me have no idea that I grew up with a twin. Consequently, it always gives me a funny feeling when someone suggests I have a look alike. My unspoken reaction is both the feeling that I’ve just been punched in the stomach and an uncanny feeling I can’t quite put into words.

 

At any rate, it wasn’t just the guy’s picture. Remarkably, he also shared the same last name of my friend. Honestly, they had to be related. I’m not talking second- cousin-two-times-removed. Seriously, this guy had to be a brother; maybe even a twin brother. The resemblance was that remarkable.

 

You’re probably wondering how I made this discovery? Last week I accepted a friend request from the wife of my pastor when I was a student in college. It has been close to fifty years since we’ve had contact. They reside in Maryland. At any rate, I knew from a few exchanged messages that they were still in contact with some of the friends with whom I went to college. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it earlier, but I took the liberty of scrolling down through their list of friends on Facebook to see if they had contact information for folks I knew in college.

 

As I was scrolling through the list of their friends, the profile picture of a lady who was pictured with a man caught my attention. I automatically assumed that the man was her husband. The man in the picture looked just like a friend of mine. In fact, from the identification of the wife’s name on the profile she carried the maiden name of my friends in Maryland and her last name was the same as my friend in Texas. I found myself wanting to know more.

 

I clicked on the profile photograph hoping it would take me to the lady’s home page. I wanted to know where she lived and her husband’s first name. I was eager to share with my friend in Austin that I’d found someone who could pass as his twin. With the exception of her name, all identifiable information was unavailable for anyone to review who wasn’t already a Facebook friend.

 

I had the thought: “I hope I have my Facebook page limited in this same manner.” You know, you can’t be too careful with private information. Despite my interest in knowing, I didn’t know where she lived and I didn’t know her husband’s first name.

 

I did have the presence of mind to take a picture of the lady’s profile picture that included her husband. I at least wanted to forward that on to my friend. I think, he too, would think it was an amazing resemblance.

 

From what I’ve shared, you’re probably thinking I was curious enough that I sent the lady a friend request along with a message: “Your husband looks a lot like a friend of mine in Texas. Could they be related?” Hands down, that would really be a dumb thing to do. For one thing, I’d never be that bold and secondly, it would defy social boundaries associated with the use of social media. It clearly would have been unacceptable.

 

However, my curiosity did prompt me to send a message to my friend in Maryland. I wrote: “I scrolled through your list of friends on Facebook to see if you had contacts to any of the folks from Hardin-Simmons that I don’t already have as Facebook friends. In the process, I saw the profile picture for (name of her niece) and did a double take. I have a friend named ‘…..’ and he could pass for her husband’s twin brother. They look identical”.

 

I eagerly awaited my friend’s response. Never ever in a million years would I have expected the response she sent. She said: “Her husband’s name is ‘…” (it was the name I had provided her). Are you sure it is not the same person? He is a lawyer.”

 

Duh!   I didn’t see that coming. It really is true, “I’m not the sharpest Crayola in the box”. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to show my friend that he had a real life lookalike. On the other hand, I now know that my friend has amazing extended family. However, that part doesn’t surprise me. Birds of a feather normally travel together.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

Live Like You Were Dying

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The question asked of me at lunch yesterday was fairly commonplace. The person asking remembered from our previous meeting that I had kids. Yesterday he asked their ages. It wasn’t that I had to think about it. I didn’t. Yet, I was startled to hear myself respond: “My son will be forty-five years old this month. My daughter is thirty-five.” Could I really be the parent of a forty-five year old?

 

If that represents half a lifetime, then one has the good fortune of longevity and the gift of old age. On the other hand, is that’s really true? All four of my grandparents lived beyond the age of ninety and none of them were old at the time of their deaths. Consequently, I could argue that being forty-five is only a step and a half the other side of adolescence.

 

In all honesty, I can also say that it feels like it was only day-before-yesterday that I was forty-five years of age. That was almost two and a half decades ago. The acknowledgement that my son is at the threshold of becoming more like me that he’s ever been is worthy of thought.

 

I’m not going to suggest that it is a scary thought, but being on the upper end of the continuum puts me a lot closer to crossing the finish line than I’d like to think. In so many ways I keep telling myself that I’ve only just begun. Could that really be true? Probably not unless I want to acknowledge the inevitable that maybe I missed the boat or got on late. Chronologically at my age, I’ve had time to go around the block more than twice.

 

Before I was done sharing my family story with the man who asked my children’s ages, I also threw in the ages of my grandchildren and mentioned that the seven year old describes me as the king of adventure.

 

He responded: “My oldest is the adventuresome one in my family. I have four children; two in college and two in high school.” I was shocked! The guy is probably about the same age as my son. I’m not good with guessing ages, but at most I’d say the guy can’t be any older than his mid-forties. How could he possibly have two kids in college?

 

He went on to say, “My son has worked this summer at a venue in Colorado that features white water rafting and rock climbing”. The man and his family had just returned from an extended family outing near the venue where his son works.   His father-in-law had rented a house in Colorado large enough to accommodate his family and his wife’s sister’s family. That coupled with his wife’s father and mother made for the perfect setting for an extended family vacation.

 

He said, “We all went white water rafting. Never have I been prouder of my son. He did an amazing job of managing the raft that kept us safe and at the same time provided an experience that will be long remembered. It was really a great time”.

 

He went on to say that his father-in-law is seventy-two-years old and that he also is the king of adventure. After the white water rafting, the father-in-law asked if anyone had an interest in skydiving? He said: “I actually had been thinking about doing that. ‘Why not?’ I thought to myself.” Consequently my friend, his oldest son and daughter, his brother-in-law and his father-in-law all went skydiving. I guess that adds a new dimension to the concept of “rocky mountain high”.

 

His facial expression in describing the experience was telling. Even the pupils of his eyes dilated a little as he talked about the adrenaline rush from the experience. He said, “The only scary part was actually stepping out of the plane. After that it was the most incredible experience.”

 

I made a mental note that maybe my grandson is wrong. Maybe I’m not the king of adventure. I’ve really not yet added skydiving to my bucket list. Whose to say, maybe I will change my mind, but for now, I’d rather have both my feet in snow skis headed down the mountain. That is the rocky mountain high I long to experience again and again.

 

Yesterday at the restaurant, the waiter insisted on identifying the specials. He then asked, “Which one would you like? I responded, “I guess I’m old and set in my ways. I want the cheese enchiladas. I always order the cheese enchiladas”. He countered, “No, that’s not want you want. You owe it to yourself to try the pork enchiladas”.

 

Without pausing to take a breath, he added, “You really aren’t old. Old is only a frame of mind. What you need to remember is that I work here and I eat here. Consequently, I know what’s good. The pork enchiladas aren’t always on the menu. You really must try them”.

 

There was something about the way he challenged my dyed-in-the-wool commitment to eat what I always ordered that both caught me off-guard and challenged my thinking. How many years have I been eating at Pappasitos and how many years have I always ordered the same thing? Maybe it was time to broaden my perspective. What I discovered is that the waiter was right. The pork enchiladas were really good.

 

So maybe, now that I’m somewhere past middle age, I need to start living like I was dying. I’ve downloaded Tim McGraw’s song by that same name on my iPhone. I plan to add it to my daily commute just as a reminder:

 

“I went sky divin’,

I went rocky mountain climbin’,

I went 2.7 seconds on a bull name Fumanchu.

And I loved deeper,

And I spoke sweeter,

And I gave forgiveness I’ve been denying,

And he said someday I hope you get the chance,

To live like you were dyin’.”

 

All My Best!

Don

The Twilight Years – Why Not Accelerate The Journey?

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A friend I’ve never met in person sent me a text yesterday. Her brief note stated: “I thought of you and your blog when I saw this picture.” Actually, it was probably the caption more than the picture that reminded her of me. The caption stated: “Don’t worry about getting older. You’re still gonna do dumb stuff, only slower.”

 

First I’ve got to say, “It is the highest of compliments to be thought of by anyone; particularly someone you’ve never met in person. One of the advantages provided me through social media is to get to know people I’d never have the option of knowing in any other format. Actually there are a number of people I feel like I’ve come to know as a friend simply through periodic exchanges of information.

 

Do you have any idea how many people I have coffee with each morning? No, I’m not there in person, but if for some reason my blog isn’t delivered in a timely fashion, I may get a note that their coffee grew stale or cold while they were waiting. Having someone say to me: “I read your blog” is the highest of compliments. Honestly, some of the people who communicate that message are people I didn’t know ever read my blog.

 

Getting back to the quote: “Don’t worry about getting older. You’re still going to do dumb stuff, only slower”. The only part that bothers me is the concept of “getting slower”. The rest of it is business as usual.

 

First of all, when it comes to running, you’d be hard pressed to run slower than me. Whether it’s truth of fiction, I remember that I didn’t do all that well on the required physical fitness tests in high school under the President Kennedy era when public school students were required to be tested for physical agility. I certainly didn’t do well on the 50-yard-dash. Of course, my twin brother may have influenced my interpretation or memory of my speed.

 

Speaking of the President John Kennedy era highlights the fact that although things change, everything remains the same. President Obama’s administration has certainly promoted a focus on nutrition and healthy living. Maybe it’s a Presidential legacy. Actually, the President’s Council of Fitness started even before President Kennedy. President Dwight Eisenhower established it on July 16, 1956. Of course, under the Eisenhower era, the primary concern was that our nations youth were not as physically fit and active of those of other countries. The purpose of the focus was to ensure that youth were fit and active so they could dutifully serve in the military. Sixty years later, this year’s approach and emphasis is to inspire all Americans to accelerate their journey to leading a healthy, active lifestyle.

 

Like I’ve shared before, the General is on her way. She has a personal trainer and she works out three or four times a week. I guess in some regards, she reminds me of my mother. Mother was always focused on physical health and exercise. You’d think that with the influence of both of these movers and shakers, I’d be less sedentary and more mobile. However, I think I hold my own. I may be slow in the 50-yard dash, but I walk faster than most people find as a comfortable pace. “Catch me if you can” continues to be a motto worth pursuing.

 

I guess I’m not yet on the threshold of believing that a person has to slow down in the midst of older age. Some of the kindest people I’ve ever known were my pastor and his wife from my childhood. Gerald and Mary Lou Petty both turned a corner in the midst of their retirement years and began taking art lessons. Amazing! Absolutely amazing is the only way I can describe their skill set and the professionalism of their art. When it comes to art work, I’m pretty particular with what I want hanging on the walls of my home. Trust me, I gladly would have displayed anything either of them painted. They were incredibly talented and neither new until in the midst of their twilight years.

 

One of the shining stars in our family of faith at Henly was a man named Henry Thompson. Henry moved to Dripping Springs following the death of his wife. In the midst of his 80s, Henry didn’t give a second thought to the concept of slowing down. He said to me on more than one occasion, “Don – If you stop, you might not get started again. Consequently, I’m going to keep on going.” Henry was a man in perpetual motion and he invested his time being involved in the lives of others.

 

His death at the age of 89 caught us all off-guard, because Henry lived life to the fullest. In his earlier life, he had been a barber and he had the gift of gab. Henry placed a premium on relationships. He never met a stranger. He wanted to know people and he wanted others to know him. Henry intuitively understood that in the economy of God, the things that matter most have something to do with other people in the context of relationship.

 

Henry had a generous spirit. There is no way to calculate how many folks in our church family periodically received a jar of honey, a jar of homemade jam, peanut brittle, a water melon or a cutting from one of Henry’s plants. He routinely and unselfishly was always sharing. It kept him going. He never slowed down.

 

Consequently, I am not buying the concept that “I’ll ever do it slower”. Old age doesn’t dictate that as a prerequisite. John Glenn, the first American to obit the Earth made history again at the age of 77. You got it, he traveled in space once again and is the oldest person to do so.

 

At the age of 86, Katherine Pelton swam the 200-meter butterfly in 3 minutes, 1.l4 seconds, beating the men’s world record for that age group by over 20 seconds.

 

At the age of 91, Allan Stewart of New South Wales completed a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of New England.

 

What accomplishments! All of that gives me great hope. I haven’t accomplished anything noteworthy yet, but gratefully,  I’m not yet done. I don’t plan to slow down. Catch me if you can. You’ll probably find me doing dumb stuff, but I’ll be having the time of my life.

 

All My Best!

Don

HEAT WAVE

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The memory file is permanently etched in indelible ink in the resources of their minds. Both will tell you that: “July 19, 1986 was the worst day of my life.”  It’s been thirty years and much has changed. Through all the changes, the couple’s memory of that day has not wavered. 

 

They had looked forward to the day with such hope and anticipation.  It is not an understatement to say it fell sadly short of everything they had wished. Of those invited, people came from across the United States and Canada.  Perhaps for them, July 19, 1986 also serves as a memory they will never forget.

 

What, if anything, do you remember about Saturday, July 19, 1986?  Maybe you can recall some general facts?  Ronald Reagan was President.  During that week, folks in the U.S. were listening to the Invisible Touch by Genesis.  Madonna topped the charts in the U.K. with Papa Don’t Preach. Heartburn, directed by Mike Nichols, was one of the most viewed movies released in 1986. The title of the movie comes close to being descriptive of the memory that cannot be erased.

 

Perhaps there is a common theme to some of the memories that others hold for that day as well.  According to the Associated Press, a headline in the Los Angeles Times read: “3,000 Flee Fire In Boston”.  According to the story, an electrical fire broke out in the basement of the 35-story State Street Bank Building in Boston.  Although there were no serious injuries, 3,000 people evacuated the building.  That might serve as a memory for some. But I doubt that it is permanently carved in stone.

 

Another headline in the Los Angeles Times read: “Energy Demand at Peak as Dixie Heat Sets Marks [July 19 1986 | From Times Wire Services]. The nation was in the midst of an unrelenting heat wave.  The Southeast was entrenched in a sizzling heat wave that extended into its 13th day.  Reportedly it was responsible for at least 17 deaths.

 

All across the nation, the heat wave in July 1986 was big news: “Afternoon temperatures ranged from the low 90s in Michigan to 100 degrees in Augusta, Ga., 103 in Fayetteville, N.C., and 97 in Washington, D.C. It hit 99 in Atlanta, breaking a record set in 1944, and 98 at North Carolina’s Raleigh-Durham Airport, breaking a 1948 record.  It was 105 degrees in Columbia, S.C., marking the 13th day in a row that the city had seen the mercury in triple digits”.

 

Do you remember the song: “We Got Married In A Fever” by Johnny and June Cash?  “We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout, / We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson, ever since the fire went out. / I’m goin’ to Jackson, I’m gonna mess around, / Yeah, I’m goin’ to Jackson, …” 

 

In case you’re wondering, on July 19, 1986 it was hotter “than a pepper sprout” in Chicago as well. That was particularly true inside the Quinn Chapel AME church in Chicago.

 

Everything was in place for a picture perfect wedding. Family members and friends had come from far and near to celebrate the occasion. Rev. Corneal A. Davis, the Godfather of the bride was officiating at the wedding. He was both her pastor and a member of the Illinois House of Representatives. 

 

The Godfather for the groom was the pianist who accompanied the groom’s brother as he sang, “Always and Forever”, “The Lord’s Prayer and one other selection.

 

It was an impressive line-up.  The bride and groom (who prefer to remain anonymous), had carefully made certain it would be a wedding to be remembered.  They had planned every detail.  Little did they know their plans would rapidly unravel on their wedding day?

 

For starters, the bride’s father changed his mind at the last minute and decided he wanted to walk his daughter down the aisle.  Until the day before the wedding, he had declined. Consequently, it was an honor the bride’s uncle had gladly agreed to fulfill.  It took some last minute scurrying on the day of the wedding to get him fitted with a tuxedo.  It addition, how do you communicate to your uncle that the privilege is no longer his?  Maybe that is why weddings are stressful.  You never know what to expect.

 

The couple, both in their mid-twenties, had planned for every eventuality with the exception of the weather.  It was triple digits in Chicago, but that’s only the beginning of the story. No one knew until they arrived for the wedding that the air conditioning in the stately historic chapel was not working.  It was hotter than fire.  I guess you could say it was a real sweat-shop.

 

In fact, a pepper’s sprout might be cool compared to the temperature inside the church.  The bride had chosen to wear the wedding dress that her mother had worn.  I guess that met the expected criteria of “something old”.  The sleeves were lace and due to the heat, seemed permanently affixed to the arms of the bride.  Following the bride’s plans to change before the wedding reception, it took the assistance of her bridesmaids to carefully loosen and carefully move the lace down her arms.  It took them over an hour because the lace was so delicate.

 

The sister of the groom was in a car accident making her way to the wedding.  The uncle of the groom’s car was vandalized and broken into while parked at the church.  In case you’re wondering, it gets worse.  

 

A family member had reportedly paid for the catering.  Unfortunately, unknown to the newly married couple, the bill had not been paid.  As the bride and groom were greeting those in the reception line, the caterer took her place in the line and reaching the bride, whispered in her ear that she had not been paid.  She demanded immediate payment or she would create such a scene that the bride and groom would both be forever humiliated. Frantically, the bride excused herself and pouring through the cash she had been given, came up with enough to pay the caterer.

 

Several of us heard their story this week.  Someone asked, “How did you meet?”  The bride said, “We met at the Smart Bar in Chicago.  I had gone there with some of my girlfriends and he walked in”. The bar was a three-story establishment.  He offered to buy a round of drinks.  Reportedly, the future wife declined, but her friends accepted.  She said of him, outside his hearing, “I was wearing high-top tennis shoes and jeans.  This guy walked in and he was dressed very differently.  He was actually wearing penny loafers.”  I had the sense, that from her perspective, that was not something you saw everyday.

 

Over the course of the past couple of days, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the two of them.  Consequently, I’ve asked a number of questions. I told them I needed the information to add authenticity to my blog. They didn’t actually give me permission to share their story, but they didn’t say I couldn’t.  I’m calling that implied consent.  They have crafted a very full and satisfying life together despite the fact that each credits their wedding day as: “The worst day of my life”.

 

According to the story of their meeting, the following day the “guy telephoned the girl”. During the conversation, he heard a baby crying.  He asked, “Are you babysitting?”  She replied, “No, I am not babysitting. That is my son crying.” He responded, “You didn’t look like a mother last night.”  She replied, “What does a mother look like?”  To his credit, from that day forward, he telephoned everyday. He thoughtfully planned their dates to include the baby.  That endeared him to the baby’s mother.

 

She later shared with me that she found him fascinating.  At the same time, initially she was cautious.  She wanted to know if he was for real.  To his credit and hers, she found that he was.  They married a year and a half later.  Unlike other guys she’d been around, not only did he have a college degree, he had a master’s degree and he knew what he wanted out of life.  He had an impressive job in the banking industry.  She was shocked when he initially told her he was buying a home for his parents. 

 

“Fascinating” is a word I’d use to describe him as well.  Visiting with him at dinner last night, I asked lots of questions.  He definitely falls into the category of gifted and talented.  He grew up in Detroit.  He purchased his first car from his uncle.  Are you ready for this?  The car was a 1965 Cadillac Coup Deville.  It was a white car with a white leather interior.  It also had wide white wall tires. He was sixteen years old at the time.

 

As a youth, one of his favorite past times was roller-skating.  In fact, it was a passion for him.  He skated about twenty hours a week. I think today they call it, “Jam Skating.”  He was good enough on skates that he had a locker at the skating rink.  You wore your best to roller skate and you made a point never to fall.  He regularly was outfitted in a Swedish knit shirt and gabardine pants.  I grew up in West Texas.  Consequently, I have no frame of reference.  We wore Levis.

 

He was an employee of General Motors and following his graduation from college, GM had planned to provide a fellowship to cover the cost of his MBA.  That would have been the key to his fast track to upper management.  Unfortunately, due to the recession, the fellowship didn’t come through.  However, he credits GM with having planted that seed that he knew he needed an MBA.  He received his from the University of Texas.

 

He and his wife of thirty years are really nice people. I am grateful to know their story and I am grateful to know them.  Both are extremely kind and capable people.

 

All My Best!

Don